Photo from HealthGauge’s Flickr photostream. I’m a team player. I don’t mean that in a ‘hire me’ jargon sort of way, I genuinely mean it. I love working as part of a team. I enjoy the camaraderie you get from working in a group. So when I saw my friend Helen saying she trying a new diet, The Fast Diet, and encouraging others to take part I wanted to know more. Diets are always better when you are boosted by other people.
For a very long time I tried different diets, until about five years ago when I gave up faddy dieting for good. They were hard work to maintain long term, both mentally and practically speaking, and after I stopped I just put the weight right back on. (Sound familiar?) So on Helen’s advice I watched ‘Eat, fast and live longer‘. In the programme, journalist Michael Mosley explores the idea of fasting and calorie restriction as beneficial to long-term health. There is also a book The Fast Diet, which I have now read. After much research, Michael discovered that intermittent fasting could lower your risk of cancer and diabetes, delay hereditary mental illness, help prevent heart disease and slow ageing. Oh and a byproduct is weight loss. I was intrigued and onboard. This is a diet for life, not just until you’ve lost the weight. Who wouldn’t want to improve their overall health?
How does it work?
Essentially you fast two days a week and eat normally the other five (this is why it has become known as the 5:2 diet). On your fasting days you only consume 500 calories, preferably in one or two meals in order to maximise the amount of time you fast for. On your non-fasting days you can eat what you want in whatever quantity you want. Converts of the diet say that over time you become less hungry on your non-fasting days and so you consume less on those days, too. Others have said it has made them more aware of how much they really were eating and therefore they have started to consume less on their non-fasting days. The action of fasting is supposed to kickstart your body into repair mode, so your body goes into detox clearing out all the bad stuff and doing essential maintenance on your cells so they all work more efficiently.
What is it like?
I’m just about to enter my fourth week of The Fast Diet. At the time I thought the first day of fasting was easy because of the novelty, but now I think it was almost my worst day for feeling hungry. Once I had done it on the first day, I knew it was possible to not eat for most of the day and still function absolutely fine. The big power of this diet is that you only need to make it to the next day to eat whatever it is you are craving – this makes it a million times easier than normal diets that require excluding the things you enjoy eating and drinking for long periods of time. For most of us, that is just setting us up for failure. It’s also flexible – my fasting days are Monday and Wednesday, but I could move them if a special occasion came up.
What are the downsides?
I’m normally quite a healthy eater or at least very careful about how much ‘junk food’ I consume. Since I started fasting, I have relapsed. Because I haven’t eaten the day before, I tend to binge on sugar and fat on my non-fasting days which I think will probably be reflected in my weight loss or lack thereof. I’m actually not sure if I have lost any because I haven’t weighed myself yet – I’m waiting until the one month mark – but we shall have to see… Fasting can also exacerbate previous conditions, although these are supposed to be short-lived and a response to your body repairing and cleansing of bad stuff. In my case, this means I have lots of teenage-style spots – lovely, I know.
For now, I am going to continue with The Fast Diet because the health benefits are too good to ignore. There are even early suggestions that fasting during chemotherapy could help its effectiveness. Any exciting developments along the way and I will let you know. If you are interested in diets and improving your overall health I recommend watching the TV show to start yourself off. Long term, I guess we just hope that the results speak for themselves!